The secret ingredient of Stray is utility

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Stray was released just over a week ago and has already exceeded all the expectations of fans. Apparently, its main appeal was due to the way it was launched on PlayStation Plus for Premium and Extra subscribers, but its reach has also expanded. In addition to Annapurna’s already broken Steam record, the Tramp has also become a phenomenon due to how excited real cats and dogs are watching a fictional cat move around the screen.

There are several reasons why fans can perceive the Tramp with the same positive attitude as themselves. Stray is not very long, but its quality is fantastic, and the gameplay is smooth. In addition, Stray’s gameplay allows fans to play as a cat that behaves exactly the same as usual. Over the past few years, many cyberpunk and dystopian sci-fi games have appeared on the market, but Stray has been able to uniquely identify itself due to its originality and usefulness within the same genre.

The main character Stray is an ordinary cat in an unusual environment

The integrity of the Tramp is neatly packaged in its narrative vessel, a stray cat with which players maneuver and meow for their pleasure. But although players control this cat and perform basic quests with it, it is not a creature from science fiction that simply wears the guise of a domestic cat. The Tramp Cat, apparently, is not interested in the events taking place in his dystopia, nor in the lives of the robots he meets inhabiting different places. Instead, the cat receives information through a tiny B-12 drone of the Tramp, which can translate the robot language to her, and thus the cat and the player understand what they are being asked about at any time.

The ability to play as a cat is, in fact, the whole marketing ploy of a Tramp, and it works; players have a special “meow” button, they are invited to gently push objects to ledges and scratch selected doors to gain access to new areas or non—player characters. With this approach to gameplay, players who don’t like cats and their features as much may not be as enthusiastic or entertained as those who do.

But its usefulness thanks to this approach is undeniable and sets it apart from other sci-fi cyberpunk games of recent years. It also provides other developers with a template for games with main characters living in cities.

Robots Vagabonds and a narrative about the environment inspire hope in a bleak dystopia

However, the integrity of Stray is also combined with surprisingly layered themes that further emphasize the atmosphere of the game. Simply put, the Tramp is dealing with some everyday and existential issues that are likely to cause anxiety for some players.

The Tramp doesn’t linger or dive into these topics too deeply, but they are undeniably present, especially when players reach Antvillage and Midtown. B-12 questions their own existence after admitting certain information about themselves and who they were when the players arrive at Antvillage, and powerful images of police brutality are portrayed with the help of robot guards who roam Midtown.

However, some robots are primarily useful and invite players to cuddle up to them for as long as they wish. Stray never gives up its integrity, but simply continues layering various themes and considerations that complete the atmosphere of cyberpunk, especially when it comes to the state in which robots live, or the presence of Stray Zurk enemies.

Quests are also simple in design, but this simplicity becomes a useful feat of exploration, not complexity for the sake of complexity. Rather, collecting energy drinks, notes and notebooks becomes a fascinating task when there are so many verticalities and interiors to go through in the slums. The ending of the Tramp could have been more tragic, but it retains its integrity until the credits roll.

Stray is now available for PC, PS4 and PS5.

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